This is a self-portrait in a derelict croft house somewhere in Uist.
Whilst I step tentatively into the room, bundled up against the cold, my shadow dances lightly ahead of me, across the wall – in the pink.
In fact this picture is a composite of three photos, with the camera on a tripod and using the wireless remote control. The two photos were taken some minutes apart, changing pose (and clothing) between shots.
The pink refers to the colour of the tongue-and-groove boards lining the walls: that’s how it actually was in real life!
Dad says that it might be primer paint, the crofter never having got round to applying undercoat and gloss. Typical Dad!
After a long journey, we’re back in Uist : home, sweet home! (No, we haven’t moved permanently to Navarra!)
Becky’s pleased to see us! Tilly’s pleased to see us! (And judging from appearances, Tilly’s tail is even more excited to see us than Tilly herself!). Pickle is pleased to see us, even if her demeanour is intended to convey her displeasure at having been abandoned by us in the first place. Dusky and Tabatha have each demonstrated their delight at our return by kneading our laps with sharp claws and squeaky purrs. Tom trots ahead of us to show us his empty bowl.
Becky’s done an excellent job of looking after home and garden. And, at the Big Garden Croft – over the water in Eriskay, everything is in excellent order. It’s true that we now have one chicken less than we had before we left, but after that first early-morning raid by an eagle, Becky shut the chickens in for a few days, and there were no more losses. All the sheep are present and in good shape. (Now half-way through pregnancy, that shape is getting rounder by the day!) They really do enjoy their morning supplementary ration of sheep nuts and hay!
Becky can’t be expected to do everything for us, whilst we’re away, so there’s a lot of jobs to catch up on – not least the the administration and bureaucracy of modern life (especially a life of multiple self-employments).
Then there’s re-stocking with animal feed and hay. Winter maintenance, decoration and improvements at the holiday lets to complete. The compost heap built up in 2016, and now matured, has to be dug out , and spread across about a third of the walled garden’s growing plots : the 2017 compost will take it’s place (thereby being thoroughly stirred up and aerated) and then over the next couple of months seaweed will be collected from the shore and piled up on top.
On the agenda today : shopping to re-stock the pantry shelves ; sawing firewood ; spinning wool ; checking our stock of potatoes ; filling the vehicles with fuel ; financial records ; and of course, inevitably, everything to tip out of our travel bags and put back in their proper places, and dirty washing to launder.
Horns and Plenty. Ram lambs.
Left-overs from an eagle’s breakfast. Fewer eggs for ours.
Checking the electric fence voltage.
Breakfast Gate. Bothy Field.
Checking the boxes of potatos gone-bad. None, thank heavens – but some sprouts to rub off.
After excellent sales during the 2017 summer season, and an unexpectedly steady trickle of online orders since, the Hebridean Woolshed is sorely depleted of stock, and likewise the Big Garden of jams, chutneys and preserves. After nearly a month of our the winter making-season away from home, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do! And to add to the pressure, this year we’ve quite a number of early bookings for our two holiday cottages : not just in March, but even in February. No wonder we’ve scarcely had a holiday in more than fifteen years!
Having, now, a place of our own to go away to (albeit with not a little difficulty) does seem to have given us fresh motivation to make the most of what we have here, to give it our very best.